Editors Note


Volume 5, Week 1

Editors Note

Brilliant!     Looking at this coming weekend’s rugby fixtures it is a bit like Nicole Kidman meets Charlize Theron big screen bonus extravaganza. Whoa! Unfortunately the Kiwi’s have very little to offer this analogy since their talent is where it matters most – on the rugby pitch!

The Super 12 will kick off on Friday morning with the opening match between the Highlanders and the Blues. There will be no less than 8 other live matches to watch in a marathon rugby weekend for the determined viewer! Highlights included, it amounts to almost 24 hours of continuous rugby… so if you have not yet stocked up with biltong, dry wors, cold beer and a few Panados there is only one shopping day left!

Looking back over the 4 years of RF coverage on the Super 12 the change is amazing. Back in 2001 there were match reports on every game… and the team of the tournament read like a legends invitation XV. It is easy to forget that the first match was played in 1996, making this the 10th edition of an exhilarating and pleasurable to watch, exhibition of running rugby. And there is no doubt that this year will be an exception to the rule.

Traditionally, the New Zealanders rule the roost and only the sublime Brumbies have been able to wrestle the crown away from the Blues and Crusaders. For SA teams it has been a huge issue to win the crown but precious few teams have come close. Durbanites will be quick to remind all about the Sharks’ two final appearances but on both occasions they were completely overshadowed confirming SA’s hopeless cause for a win.

Can it be different this year? Will an SA team be there in the final four and shock horror, reach and win a final? Most unlikely given the traditional obstacle of travel although every team by now should understand the logistics (given that it is the 10th tournament) and prepare accordingly. The crux though for the lack of victories is not purely travel related but more in the consistency in performance or rather inconsistency. How often have SA teams played superbly against opponents the one week to record marvellous victories only to throw it away, 7 days later with a lacklustre display? Every year.

The reasons for this phenomena are manifold, some are; the lack of conditioning, the lack of continuity in selection of both coaches and playing personnel, the lack of squad depth, the lack of confidence and finally the lack of winning on foreign soil. Not to mention internal politics and an unstable infrastructure surrounding the players. Yet, considering all these almost insurmountable obstacles – some of the SA teams attract the most support of all the franchises in the competition and every year there is a perennial hope that ‘this will be the year’. Will it? Of course it will be!

Why will a South African team win the Super 12 in 2005? A couple of reasons:

•    Superstition around the number 10 – here is a lot of synergy. Transvaal won the Super 10, the Springboks won the World Cup 10 years ago in 1995, the Tri Nations was won for a second time 10 years after democracy and finally SA won the bid to host the soccer World Cup in 2010.
•    It is the last Super 12 and the other good folk will feel sorry and basically hand the trophy over – it is the sporting thing to do.

Alas, on a more serious note the chances are slim for a SA team to win and the focus should be to provide Jake White with enough players to select a competitive and representative Springbok team for the upcoming Tri Nations.

The third round of the Six Nations complete a rugby weekend nirvana and this very interested observer cannot wait for the Ireland/England clash. The two top sides in the British Isles (with respect to Wales) should provide for an absorbing encounter and Ireland will probably have more world support than ever before! They certainly have the talent to beat a more or less unchanged English team in Dublin in front of fanatical Guinness fuelled supporters.

France take on Wales in the other important clash and this might just be Laporte’s undoing. If Les Bleus does not show a marked improvement, the Welsh have the more attacking flair and hard working forwards to embarrass the French. Hopefully, this time Welsh supporters will not make any foolish bets against their country.

Enjoy a fabulous weekend of rugby, the first of many; this supporter will be at Newlands to watch the keenly awaited clash between the star studded Springb apologies Stormers and the no-name brand Sharks. There are always upsets aplenty in the Super 12, maybe even on the opening day…

Support your team at the park!



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Back to Reality by Desmond Organ
The opening weekend of the Six Nations marks the start of the international rugby season and with it the views of the armchair pundits from around the globe. It sets the scene for the annual North vs. South debate and is in fact the beginning of a year of banter as far as the game that is played in heaven is concerned.

If anything the past weekend was an absolute revelation of how the game should and should not be played, it also highlighted how teams employ strategies during the game to ensure that victory is achieved in the midst of many diverse factors such as weather conditions, strengths and weaknesses and match officials. What a pity then that the first match of the weekend was from a layman’s perspective an absolutely painful experience, usually close matches are absolute crackers and this is typically the c ase when the top nations are playing.

The quality of rugby produced was not something worth spending a lot of time writing about; simply because one side was content on making no mistakes and thus denying themselves many opportunities to score and the other side was made up of players that were clearly not the best available. Scotland despite the pain of watching them grab defeat from the jaws of victory were quite simply not up to scratch. It is one thing to play a conservative game and quite another to have a third rate flyhalf spend t he majority of the game kicking away whatever possession they had. In general the kicking out of hand was not up to standard and this is also true of the other matches.

Bernard Laporte’s decisions to omit players like Michalak came back to haunt him in more ways than one, who has heard of a modern era top nation going into a test match without a recognised kicker. It might have been Scotland who was the opposition, but this could have ended up as the biggest surprise of the whole weekend. Several of my rugby friends in the USA would have been screaming for the lynching of the match official, but to be frank Scotland have done nothing to convince me that they are cap able of beating sub standard opposition. It was an exercise in damage control and had it succeeded they might have lost any opportunity to get rid of a coach who has done very little. 

I was amused by the facilities that the Scotland coach has access to at Murrayfield during my visit there last November, a private box when most coaches are content to sit in the stands; come of it, this guy has got some serious issues when it comes to producing a decent performance. 

If the first game was a disappointment from the perspective of a seasoned fan, the second was a cracker because Wales pulled off a great victory. I always had the feeling that the big one would come eventually and if they had realised it earlier in the game it might have been a bit of a belting. England will not lose by large margins to Northern hemisphere opponents, but if they take the majority of that team to represent the Lions in New Zealand in the test matches they are going to have a serious p roblem. 

Wales’s performance was quite outstanding as far as slowing down opposition ball is concerned, Matt Dawson was restricted to individual forays into the oppositions territory and his lack of a decent pass combined with the inability of the forwards to recycle the ball efficiently put an end to the attacking capabilities that have been a hallmark of England in recent years. What it did for rugby was to remove the aura of invincibility that has been part of England’s psychological warfare and perhaps Ja ke White will think again when he says that England are so much more physical than South Africa. On a slightly less positive note, several of the England players are developing a reputation for simply being dirty players; South Africa might have now passed that baton over to somebody else.

England’s forwards were technically inefficient in the rucks and mauls and their body positioning looked like the Springboks of several years ago, Wales on the other hand had their loose forwards operating like a unit and disrupted and niggled and tackled at every opportunity. The Welsh backs were effective as a unit, but were it not for the individual contribution of one very impressive inside back they might well have let this one slip away as well.

There are very few people that could have predicted the Italian forward supremacy in Rome, my goodness is John Kirwan the only coach that had his notebook available during the games in November. It was a clinical performance only to be negated by the individual brilliance of O’Driscoll. Ireland will be hard pressed to win the whole thing if they lose key players for any significant period of time. Italy never gave up and if they can find some more effective three quarter players then they will end th is season ahead of teams like Scotland.

Sir Clive Woodward will be both a happy and a worried man after this weekend, happy because he got out at the right time and worried because the majority of his team cannot at this point in time be English.

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For me this tour is just as big if not bigger than the World Cup. This has to be the best-ever prepared Lions squad if we are to have an chance of winning in New Zealand.       Clive Woodward

When I look back over the last 10 years of my playing career in New Zealand I feel incredibly satisfied all I have experienced and achieved.       Justin Marshall

The unions want to manage the Super 12 teams themselves, but this kind of childishness shows there is a still a long way to go.     André Markgraaff on where Solly Tyibilika should play his rugby - Sharks or not.

It could drive me insane not being able to practice the kicking, but I have accepted that this is the case and am trying to keep it in the back of my mind.     Jonny Wilkinson on his latest injury

The gloves are off. I know that Van Rooyen has been talking to all the provinces, getting them to rally around him.        South African Rugby Vice-President Mike Stofile 

There is no place for Africans in SA Rugby, in administration or on the field.      Mike Stofile

SA Rugby will not be dictated to as to how it runs its business. No political interference will be tolerated, not in the selection of teams, not in rugby decisions and not in any management decisions.       André Markgraaff

A Welsh rugby fan cut off his own testicles to celebrate Wales beating world champions England at rugby in Cardiff for the first time in 12 years.       True story....

In essence it will be my job to take on all rugby decisions in Western Province.       Nick Mallett

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